by Lois Crouse
August 10, 2017
Looking for an outdoor activity that the whole family can share? Maybe you’d like to find an exercise not as boring as sit-ups. In a budget crunch? You can take care of all those things and have the most nutritious and flavorful vegetables a few steps away from your kitchen. Start your own vegetable garden! You’re in a perfect place to do it with Memphis’s long growing season and hot, humid summers.
To get you started, we suggest the following vegetables that especially enjoy the “Southern hospitality” of the Memphis climate and soil. And no matter how beautiful, not one of them is a diva.
Photo: Flickr / Rick Payette
Memphis tomatoes picked at the peak of ripeness (when they are fully colored and firm) are the sweetest and juiciest you are ever likely to taste. The plants are easy to establish, don’t need a lot of attention and will be heavy with the eye-catching red tomatoes. They are also one of gardening’s best investments considering the cost of store-bought tomatoes.
Then as the season wanes and the tomatoes no longer ripen, it’s time for that Southern staple, fried green tomatoes! Keep some to pickle and you can jazz up any sandwich, chop them up into scrambled eggs, or, go wild, garnish your Bloody Mary with a wedge.
Photo: Wells Brothers Pet, Lawn & Garden Supply
Asparagus also is a budget saver, not only because of the sometimes outrageous cost of asparagus in the supermarket but also because the plant just keeps on giving—for decades. It’s one of the few vegetables that are perennial. Asparagus is low maintenance and can make it quite nicely through a period of drought. It does have one quirk: It doesn’t like mingling with other plants. It needs a space of its own, so it doesn’t have to compete for the available resources.
Asparagus is ready for your table when the spears are six to nine inches tall. And when the growing season is over, the foliage transforms into a delicate cloud-like fern that turns gold in the fall.
Photo: Flickr / Jenny
Like asparagus, rhubarb is a perennial vegetable. Because it’s known as the “pie plant,” we tend to think of it as a fruit, but it really is a vegetable, and one that is super-nutritious with antioxidants, fiber, vitamin K, vitamin C, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. It’s low maintenance and long lasting; just be sure to keep the soil moist. Let the stalks grow to at least 10 inches before harvesting. You can take a few shorter stalks on occasion, but don’t overdo it—you can kill the plant that way. On the other hand, the leaves can kill you if ingested.
Usually cooked rhubarb is thickened and sweetened to make filling for pies, crisps and cobblers. But rhubarb’s savory taste will perk up baked beans or make a flavorful garnish for pork chops. You may be tempted to not eat it at all and just let it grow. It’s a stunning tropical-looking plant with large deep green leaves and pink, red and/or crimson stalks.
Photo: Flickr / avllesarah
You can have the best-tasting and fanciest salads on your block, plus a glamorous garden. Lettuce is easy to grow, and there are some really exotic varieties. Make your own artistic arrangement in your garden by direct planting.
“Skyphos” is one of the most beautiful lettuces with pale green leaves near the core and shades of rose in the middle, going to deep red at the edges. It’s also delicious and has excellent texture.
“Merveille des Quatre Saisons” (“French Four Seasons”) is a French heirloom lettuce with its green leaves tinged with red and bronze. The leaves stay tender longer than many lettuces and where the winter is mild, can be grown year-round.
Romaine is more ordinary than the others, but it will add to your garden “decor” with its erect shape and rich green leaves. It also keeps longer in your Memphis garden.
Let us know what your favorite vegetables to grown in Memphis are!
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Top Photo: AL.com